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A History of the Native People of Canada
Volume I (10,000 to 1,000 B.C.)

Epilogue (Volume I)

The major cultural events outlined in Volume I include the initial occupation of the lands south of Beringia by Palaeo-Indian culture around 10,000 B.C., and probably earlier, and the settling of the High Arctic and Greenland some 8,000 years later by Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture. In the first instance, people with a technology adapted to northern latitudes occupied the Tundra and Lichen Woodland vegetation provinces that covered Canada at this time (Roberts et al. 1987). In the latter instance, however, the occupation of the High Arctic was only possible because Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture was uniquely adapted to survive in what must be regarded as the most severe and demanding environment to ever challenge human occupation. In addition to the foregoing dramatic population movements there were the more gradual occupations of lands as regions recovered from the effects of the last glaciation. An example is a gradual eastward shift of Shield culture across the Canadian Shield that did not reach the Atlantic coast until 2,000 B.C. Another major cultural process apparent throughout Period II and Period III is the evidence of increasing cultural regionalism accompanied by elaboration of technology. Throughout the process of regional cultural differentiation there is also a suggestion of population growth.

A significant innovation during Period II was the invention of the spearthrower in what is now the southeastern United States. This took place around 8,000 B.C. after which the new weapon system diffused throughout North America only reaching the extreme northwest just prior to Period III. It is of note that the bevelled bladed and serrated edged stone point tips that armed the javelins of the new technology in the east are remarkably similar to recently introduced modifications to steel bread and steak knives in our own technology. Also in Period II there is evidence of the invention of the toggling harpoon on the east coast. Such an occurrence suggests the early existence of a complex large sea mammal hunting technology. Another innovation was the construction of fish weirs across much of Canada and the evidence for the use of both gill nets and dip nets. The bow and arrow weapon system, believed to have been brought to Canada by Early Palaeo-Eskimo culture, appears towards the end of Period III along the Labrador coast from whence it diffused westward to other cultures. Mortuary ceremonialism, appearing as early as Period I, continues to elaborate during Period II and Period III resulting in such impressive structures as some of the medicine wheels of the Plains. To supply the expanding ceremonialism, most often related to mortuary activities, elaborate trade networks were established that moved goods across the continent. Native copper begins to be mined and fashioned into a wide range of tools and ornaments using the cold hammering-annealing procedure as early as 7,000 years ago. By the end of Period III the first hints of cultural developments that would eventually lead to the stratified societies of the West Coast become apparent. Interwoven among these events and developments recognizable from the archaeological evidence are the invisible or nearly invisible facets of technologies which can only be inferred from indirect lines of evidence. Among such technologies would have been the use of watercraft across Canada. Watercraft would have ranged from seaworthy vessels to highly portable bark or skin craft. Winter food supplies, essential to the survival of northern hunting peoples, are almost always invisible in the archaeological record. An exception is the evidence for the production of bone grease on the Plains which was a necessary component of pemmican, one of the most efficient storable food concentrates ever developed.

Volume IVolume II

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